Green-ish Life

My Accidentally Green Family

The Christmas Tree is Always Right

The Christmas holiday is over.  Thank goodness.  We went through an intolerably long period of debating real tree versus fake tree.  I was on the side of pro-fake tree.  Can be used for many years, blah, blah, blah…  My husband was pro-real tree.  He was all: let’s take the girls to the fir farm and let them have the tradition of selecting and chopping their own… blah, blah… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…  Whatever.  We disagreed and never came to a decision.  Our girls (and the dogs) took things into their own hands and got Grandma to come over and help them get the fake tree out of the attic when my husband and I weren’t paying attention.  We came home to find the girls and Grandma (and the dogs) decorating a slightly crooked, slightly dusty, probably-on-its-last-legs tree.   But you know how the Peanuts characters decorated Charlie Brown’s tree and made it look so awesome?  Well, our tree didn’t turn out so bad, either.

See.          Our own Charlie Brown Christmas tree!

I didn’t feel like I had won anything, though.  I just felt like a heel for not doing something sooner.  The girls were having a blast decorating that tree.  The three-year-old couldn’t stop giggling.  The five-year-old sang holiday songs at the top of her lungs whether she knew the words or not.  And then I knew, on this issue, my greenish life choices can go out the window.  I have to allow our family permission for that.  What matters is that our family is healthy and we are happy and together.  What matters is that we had a wonderful holiday season and spent some very good quality time together.  What matters is that we are so fortunate to be surrounded by so much love in this life.  On this issue, I can honestly say that I don’t know, and maybe don’t care if we made the proper green-ish choice.  We made the proper choice for us.  And that is always right.Happy new year to all!

January 2, 2013 Posted by | christmas trees, green, home environment | , , , | Leave a comment

The Christmas Tree Dilemma: Real or Fake?

I love (LOVE!) the blog GardeninNirvan (http://gardeningnirvana.com) and this post captures the current discussions (arguments?) in our house: real tree or fake tree?  I’m pro fake tree.  Can be used for many years, blah, blah, blah…  My husband is pro real tree.  He’s all: let’s take the girls to the fir farm and let them have the tradition of selecting and chopping their own tree; it’ll be fun.  Whatever.  We disagree on this.  So, for now, we don’t have a tree.  But we will figure it out.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this post, reblogged and linked here:  The Christmas Tree Dilemma: Real or Fake?.

December 10, 2012 Posted by | christmas trees, green, home environment | , , , | 4 Comments

Going Local – My take on why you should consider buying food produce locally.

Going Local – My take on why you should consider buying food produce locally..

via Going Local – My take on why you should consider buying food produce locally..

November 26, 2012 Posted by | buy local, green living, healthy eating, healthy living, organic, seasonal eating, seasonal food, Uncategorized | , , , , | 2 Comments

I’m A Grateful Greenie

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.

It turns what we have into enough, and
more.

It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision
for tomorrow.

~Melody Beattie

I am thankful, on this day and every day, for my family who I love so much, for my dear, dear friends, for this blog which gives me a few moments of calm and clarity in my very hectic life, and for every person who has ever taken a moment to read any part of it.  I am thankful for all that I have learned from those who have written on similar topics, those who have commented on my posts, and for those who have pointed me to new sources of information.

I’m thankful that my family is safe and well, and that we are trying hard every day to live greener, cleaner, healthier lives.  And I’m SO thankful that my husband and I chose to join a local CSA, because my five year old asks for carrots and kale and she won’t eat jar spaghetti sauce because of her CSA veggie exposure.  I’m sure the three year old is not far behind on that.  I’m thankful that my daughters will try almost anything we put on their plates without too many squeals and squirms.  They don’t love everything; but they try it and that seems the bulk of the battle in my mind.  I’m so grateful that they are healthy and happy girls with more energy than I knew any person could have.  And I’m grateful that I can be at home with them; in that area I feel blessed beyond belief.

I’m thankful for tennis, radiant floor heating in the basement, chocolate covered potato chips, my new laundry room (I should get out more), our super awesome CSA, yoga, crocheting, gardening, the animals that live in my backyard, the possibility of solar panels, a warm home, organic beef salami, the end of the intolerable election season in the US, bubble baths (which I never have time for, but I’m glad they exist), music in my home, new friends via this blog, and coupons.  I’m thankful for all these things and so much more.

I am grateful that my children still fall asleep quite early, which gives me the precious few minutes I crave to read and to write.  I look forward to this blog every day, and I’m thankful every time I get to spend time in this space.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading.

November 22, 2012 Posted by | buy local, CSA, exercise, green living, healthy eating, healthy living, home environment, nature, organic, sensible ideas, solar panels, trying new things | , , , , | Leave a comment

Someone Go Out and Turn the Compost, Please!

It’s cold here.  Not ice cold; but cold enough to make me not want to trek out into the back yard just to go turn those giant compost bins we keep against the far fence.  I don’t want to do it.  Too cold.  Too much trouble to find shoes and a coat and all that just to go rotate the piles.  I do not want to.  I’m starting to sound like my five year old.  Maybe she’s got a point: shouldn’t it be okay to say ‘I just don’t want to’ sometimes?  Maybe she’s right.

My husband and I have a happy little agreement that keeps our household running along smoothly: I am in charge of the family calendar, the household environment (that’s decorating and making sure the place doesn’t smell), clothing for all of us (which really means laundry and making sure everyone has a hat when they leave on cold mornings), and I manage the children (mostly).  He is in charge of the physical plant (home maintenance), security (locking the doors at night), sanitation (taking the trash out), and heavy lifting (he lifts heavy stuff for me).  It works about 99.99% of the time.  Our system failed us once when we couldn’t decide if changing poopy diapers was a managing children duty or sanitation.  In the end, the child had to be changed and I think I just gave in.  But he has changed his fair share of diapers over the years, so we’re good on that point.

The only other time that our system has failed us was this morning.  It was really cold; the coldest morning this fall season to date.  We were getting ourselves and the girls dressed to go out and it occurred to me that one of us needed to go rotate the compost piles.  Obviously, this is a sanitation issue.  Of course it is.  So I say, “don’t forget to go give the compost bins a twirl.”  He was confused.  Isn’t that a household activity?  No, dear, it’s not.  We disagreed.  We grimaced at each other.  We made plaintive arguments to try and convince the other one to go do this chore.  Neither of us budged.  So I went deep into my arsenal of weapons and pulled this winner out: “I just don’t want to!  Can’t you just do it?!”  The only thing that was missing was pouting and stomping on the floor.  My husband was not amused.

Eventually we did need to actually leave the house and I was busy fastening the girls into their car seats in the back of our car when I saw my husband headed into the backyard.  He gave in, but he still disagrees that turning those huge bins falls under his responsibility list.  Fine.  I’ll do it every now and then just to be nice.

The point is that we shouldn’t ignore our compost piles over the winter months.  If we are continually adding organic kitchen scraps, as my family does, then we need to make sure we’re giving the compost the best opportunity to do it’s magic.  We just have to keep in mind that the colder the temperatures, the more important it is to keep to at least a 20:1 ration of brown to green materials.  In addition, we make sure to keep the bins in a sunny spot to help keep the temperature up and the pile ‘cooking.’

We’ve fixed the ratio problem I had a few weeks ago that made the piles stinky.  Now that we’ve settled that, I’ll just make sure that we keep adding materials in the proper rations all winter long.  But for the record, I’m just not looking forward to getting out there in the snowy weather.

Anyone else still composting over the winter months?

November 20, 2012 Posted by | container gardening, green, green vacations, home gardening, nature, organic, recycle, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Goodbye CSA, I’ll Miss You

English: CSA share

English: CSA share (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That dreaded day has finally come.  The last pick up of our CSA share for this year.  There will be no more weekly trips to my beloved farm until next spring.  No more fresh, organic vegetables waiting for me to pick them up and bring them home.  No more walks through the green fields.  No more quiet moments sitting on the soft grass looking off into the clear distance, enjoying the smell of nothing, and appreciating the silence.  That’s all over.  And I am sad.

In the spring the veggie shares are light and easy to carry.  There are lettuces and spring onions, braising greens, and other light weight foods.  The bags are easy to carry.  And they’re filled with flavors that have been sadly missing from my diet for months.  I love the spring flavors and the spring pick ups.  The spring shares are bright and shiny and light.

Today’s share was wonderfully heavy.  The fall vegetables are cabbages and winter squash, cauliflower, potatoes and large onions, carrots and parsnips.  My bags were so heavy, and impossible to manage while I tried to fill the next bag.  I kept bumping into the people around me, so I earned a few nasty looks.  Part of the problem was that we were getting a double share today since the recent superstorm stopped us from being able to pick up our shares two weeks ago.  I filled my bags with two weeks worth of the weighty booty and tried not to be ridiculously emotional.  Everyone around me seemed just fine.  How could it only be me feeling so sad?  Have they no heart?

I reminded myself that I would still come by for our weekly dairy and chicken shares.  Not the same.  In the winter months the pick up is so sterile.  They don’t even allow us to drive up the main farm road!  We drive up to the farm stand, open the window, and someone hands over the chicken, the eggs, the milk, the butter…  It’s like a primitive version of the drive-through.  There’s no fresh air.  It’s not peaceful.  If you move too slowly loading the milk and stuff into your car, the person next in line will honk their horn and give you the stink eye.  This is not the weekly visit to the farm that I crave.

Then I told myself that we had worked really hard to store a lot of the summer vegetables.  I could comfort myself with vegetables that we blanched and stored (either canned or in the freezer), all winter long.  I’ll look forward to enjoying our farm share veggies all through the cold weather months.  And that’s what helped me feel a little better.  Having a farm share is wonderful because it gets my family fresh, local, organic veggies for about half of the year.  It does require work to preserve the weekly excess.  We found that we rarely ate all the veggies that came to us in the week before the next share arrived.  Wednesday nights at our house were crazy-cooking-canning-blanching-freezing fests that I wrote about here.  I won’t regret any of that hard work when I’m eating those delicious fresh veggies when there’s snow on the ground.

This year, both of my daughters started asking for vegetables for snacks.  My three-year old wants to experiment with the ingredients we add to our homemade smoothies; so far, sweet potatoes seems to be her favorite ‘surprise’ ingredient.  And the five-year old wants carrots in her lunch box every day and nearly cried when she realized that kale would not be included in the farm share every week.  That’s worth a lot to me.  If there were no other benefit, I would keep coming back for my children’s sake.

I would say to anyone who asked that joining a CSA is a good idea.  But I would caution that the full benefit of the share requires more than just showing up on the appointed weekday and picking up bags of produce.  One has to be willing to do the work while the food is in season to enjoy it year round.  I also think that you have to learn to be creative with recipes or else the third week of grilled eggplant will feel old.  CSA members have to research recipes for immediate cooking and storing the food long-term.  We needed a deep freezer to hold our frozen bounty.  I would not recommend joining a CSA to anyone who is not ready to handle the work and the storage.  But to those who think they can handle it, I say yes!  Do it!  It is so worth it.

Our farm is a beautiful place that sits on atop a rolling hill three miles from my home.  I know my farmer and I trust his methods.  I know many of the workers there and I appreciate their hard work planting, harvesting, slaughtering, and butchering.  I enjoy the weekly visits and usually spent a little extra time there watching my girls play in the fields, or enjoying a rare moment of quiet time alone.  I’ll be back next year when the CSA season begins again.  Until then, I take one last, long look over the farm grounds trying to burn the images into my memory.  I’ll miss this farm.

I grabbed the six bags of veggies, fruit, chickens, beef, milk, butter, and eggs that I packed for my family for the last time this year and limped over to my car.  I don’t want to leave.  I love this farm and I am already looking forward to coming back next year.  We’ve signed up for next year’s CSA.  See you next spring then, Farmer Wilson.  Keep warm this winter.

November 16, 2012 Posted by | autumn, buy local, CSA, green living, healthy eating, healthy living, organic, organic chickens, seasonal eating, seasonal food | , , , | 2 Comments

Solar Not As Easy As I Thought

Solar panels

Solar panels (Photo credit: Abi Skipp)

When my power was finally restored after the Superstorm came through, I started researching solar panels.  This wasn’t the first time I considered adding solar panels to our roof; it’s been on my mind for a couple of years now.  Before now, there were trees blocking the sunshine from getting to my roof, other projects that needed to be completed around the house, and other things that kept us from being able to make the change to solar power.  And there was also my husband: doubting, waiting, watching, hoping for lower prices, expecting the market for solar panels to shift in his favor.

I did some research and found that there are federal tax credits, state tax credits, and utility company rebates available now to offset the price of solar panels.  If we pay cash for the system, we could get the equivalent of 70% of the price offset by these credits and rebates.  In addition, if we finance the system (which is far less appealing to us), the up-front out-of-pocket cost is zero and we would pay for the system over time.  I think the financial incentives make this the right time to transition to solar power for our home.  My husband isn’t sold.  So for now I have to keep researching until I find something that tilts him to my side of this thing.

I contacted three companies to get estimates on the cost of a solar system for our home.  On their websites it sounds so easy: complete the simple online form, send the last month’s electric usage from the utility bill, click submit and someone will call soon with a quote on a solar system for our home.  My experience was nothing like that.

The first company to contact me did so via email.  The extra long and all too wordy message told me that the company had taken a look at the landscaping around my home and determined that we did not get enough sunlight to support a solar system.  Really?  I thought.  I’m a stay at home Mom.  I’m here almost all day.  When exactly did someone come to my home and why didn’t they call first?  The answer to that is that no one physically came to my home.  Someone somewhere looked at a Google Earth picture of my home and made a determination.  Okay.  I run to Google Earth to see what this solar company saw.  What they saw was a more than five year old picture of the roof of my house and the surrounding property.  The picture includes all of the trees that have either been cut down or fallen by storms.  The picture also included my Dad’s car parked in our driveway.  Dad died six years ago.  This picture was old and didn’t tell the current truth about my house.  I complained to the solar company, but they were unmoved.  I would complain to the Google Earth people, but I’m not sure I like that they can show a picture of my house to anyone curious about my address.  I let that one go.

The next company to contact me also sent an email.  That email very politely asked me to go get 16 months of electric usage data from our utility provider. Wha?  I don’t want to do work.  I just want you to look at my house, consider the square footage and how we use it, and give me your best estimate on what you think we’ll need.  I didn’t get that.  I got homework from solar company number two.  Since they also wanted to use the Google Earth method of visiting the house, I decided to let that estimate go as well.

The last company I contacted is actually still recovering from their experience with the Superstorm.  They did say they would be in touch, but they also begged my patience as they struggle to get their business back in operational order.  I’m trying to wait patiently.  Patience is hard, though.

And that’s the status of my solar panel pursuit.  I’m in waiting mode.  I only hope that I’m right that this will be absolutely worth the wait.  I’ll keep you posted.

November 14, 2012 Posted by | alternative energy, Change, go green, green, green living, home environment, hurricane, off the grid, renewable energy, sensible ideas, solar electricity, solar panels, tropical storm, trying new things | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Solar Life

solar panels

Solar panels (Photo credit: spanginator)

I hope this isn’t just the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy talking, but I want solar panels.  I want enough solar panels to eliminate the electricity portion of my utility bill every month.  I want to produce enough solar power that the utility company will have to pay me for the electricity my system sends back to the utility.  I want to end my dependence on our utility company for our electric power and I want it now!  My husband disagrees.

Maybe I should have begun with this statement: I hate my utility provider.  Not the nice men who come to read my meter, nor the wonderful men and women who work day and night to restore power after an outage.  No.  I hate the nameless, faceless (and probably non-existent) fat cat owners of the utility monopoly that pretends to serve my area.  They don’t serve.  They just send bills and receive payments, in my opinion.  We lose power a lot (okay, twice a year; still seems too much).  They don’t read our meter on any regular basis, so we constantly pay more than necessary until they adjust the bill to reflect our actual usage.  And we purposefully bought a house in an area with underground wires, but we lose power as much as any other neighborhood because… actually, I don’t know why that is.

I want to fire my utility.  Why does my husband disagree, you ask?  It’s a dollars and sense question for him.  We agree that we should consider alternative energy.  He just wonders if the price of the panels won’t come down to a more reasonable level in a few years?  Are we moving too quickly to get solar panels when the same thing (or something better) will be available at a much cheaper price in a few years?  Good question.  But if anyone knew the answer to that, they could also predict the lottery numbers and they could just help us win the next big lottery jackpot.  Who knows?!

I think we should go ahead and do it now while the utility rebates and tax incentives are available.  With that, we can save nearly 70% of the purchase price.  Let’s just do it now!  But my husband isn’t ready.

So I wonder if anyone out there has solar panels? Or have you considered solar panels and decided against it?  I would love to hear any comments on either side of the argument.  Share your thoughts!

November 12, 2012 Posted by | alternative energy, green, green living, home environment, off the grid, renewable energy, solar electricity, solar panels, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yoga Life

English: Vrksasana, the tree position, a Yoga ...

The tree position, a Yoga posture. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few weeks ago, I tried a yoga class.  I didn’t know anything about yoga.  I only knew that I wanted to work out, but I didn’t want to jump up and yell “woooooooo!” in the middle of the sweaty session.  Don’t get me wrong, everyone needs a little cardio, but I’m just not made for those group classes where we all pretend we don’t look like idiots trying to mimic the uber-shapely instructor.  I’d rather look like an idiot all alone; I do my cardio in the fitness center on one of the machines (treadmill, stair climber, etc.).  I do it there so that I can watch TV and then I won’t notice when anyone looks at me and laughs at my poor form.  But I digress.

The point is, I was looking for something new and I wandered into a yoga class.  And now I’m hooked.  I have decided that I really, really love yoga.  I get myself to a class when I can, but not less than 3 times a week.  And I love it.  Yoga class challenges me.  Yoga relaxes me.  Yoga reminds me to breathe fully and not be satisfied with my usual shallow breaths.  I leave yoga feeling that wonderful soreness you get from a really good workout.  But then I recover, and I want to do it again.  Something about it is just that good.

Here is what I’ve learned about yoga and about myself from these first few classes:

  1. Yoga really is a workout.  I don’t sweat like I do with my cardio workout, but I do sweat.  Holding those poses and balancing for such long periods takes a lot of energy.  I sweat, therefore it is a workout.
  2. I have terrible balance.  Remember when we were kids and we could do a handstand, or a head stand, or stand on one leg, or anything else that required balance?  Well, if you don’t actively practice that, you lose it.  I have lost it.  It takes a lot for me to balance myself; and we’re not doing anything too difficult.  For now, it’s the tree pose: stand on one foot; wrap the other foot around the standing foot’s ankle or calf; hands in front of your heart or raised above your head; now hold that pose for 90 seconds.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.  …  …  …  Not so easy is it?  Now do poses like that for 75 minutes.  That’s my yoga class.
  3. Yoga is not a religion.  I think that I thought it was a religious practice.  If it is, I haven’t seen that yet.  My yoga instructors haven’t introduced any religious-y ideas into the class.  I’ve stopped being suspicious.  No religion here.
  4. I do not breathe very deeply in my normal life.  In yoga I’m learning to control my breathing and to breathe deeply using my full lung capacity.  That’s harder than it sounds, particularly when you have to remember to do that for the entire 75 minute class.  I’m trying to be more conscious of my breath outside of class.  That will take some time.
  5. I want to be good at yoga.  When I do my cardio workout, I really don’t care what I look like.  I just want to get it done.  And as long as I don’t hear any audible giggles, I feel okay about the workout.  But I work really hard in yoga class to do the poses correctly and get the most out of each.  As opposed to just getting it done, I want to do this right and become really good at yoga.

This is all new for me.  I would not have predicted that I would ever try yoga, much less enjoy it this much.  I guess this is all part of my continuing evolution.  I’m a woman, a wife, and a mother.  I’m a bit greenish, partly by necessity, partly because I believe it’s the right thing to do.  And I do yoga.  At least 3 times a week.

November 8, 2012 Posted by | Change, exercise, green, healthy living, new experiences, Uncategorized, working out, yoga | | 1 Comment

What I Learned from Hurricane Sandy

Today was one of the happiest days of my life!  What day is that, you ask?  Today is the day that our utility company finally restored power to my area!  Huzzah!  We have lights again!

We lost power last Monday evening just as Hurricane (or Tropical Storm) Sandy hit land.  The electricity went off and stayed off for six long days.  Six days!  That’s too long for any family to live in the dark.  And since Octobers lately have been unseasonably cold, it’s not warm enough to live without heat.  Not to mention the fact that the kids can’t go to school under those circumstances, so they’re home needing entertainment and suffering from advanced stages of cabin fever.  Six days is too long to ask me to give up the sweet solitude that I have once the husband leaves for work and the kids leave for school.  It’s too much for the dogs who are confused about the change in schedule.  Six days is too much.  And if you had asked me before the power outage what one thing couldn’t I live without for six days, I would have said it was the television.  I love television.  I LOVE television.  In our house the TV is always on; it is my constant companion when I’m home alone and I love it.  I would have said that I can’t live without it.

I shouldn’t complain (but I will) because my super-terrific (and generally pessimistic) husband predicted that one day we would lose power for a big chunk of time and he had our house wired with a back up generator.  At the time I thought it was the biggest waste of money ever.  By Tuesday evening when the temperature dropped rather precipitously, I was outside kissing that thing on its metal side!  And if anyone asks when we’re out with friends recalling the storm, the generator was all my idea.

But even with the generator, not having power is stressful.  I worried about the possibility of carbon monoxide gas being blown back inside the house from the generator.  I worried about the really large trees on our property that survived the storm, but that might be so damaged that they won’t withstand another big wind.  I worried about our neighbors who didn’t have any heat or power.  I worried about my daughters who were both showing signs of stress as their routine continued to unravel as the week progressed; school was cancelled, activities were closed, and play dates couldn’t happen because roads were impassible.  I spent the week worrying.  But this was no surprise; I am a black belt worrier.  I can worry with the best of ’em.

The real surprise was that our family didn’t miss the things we thought we couldn’t do without.  We really didn’t miss the television, the video games, nor the electric kitchen appliances.  I’m not kidding.  We just didn’t miss any of that.  Instead, we read books aloud to each other and we had more time to talk.  We sat around our fireplace and sang songs like a corny, old episode of some 1950s TV show.  We cooked food and chopped with knives instead of using the food processor.  We used wisks instead of the blender.  We mixed with our hands instead of the electric mixer.  Without this little ‘experiment’, I would have said that we need all of these things, but it turns out that we are really okay without it.

Pre-Sandy, my husband and I were debating the pros and cons of removing the TV from our family room.  Our family room is an open space into our kitchen and the TV can be seen from both rooms.  On the one hand, it is nice to have the TV available to watch the news and to enjoy Friday Family Movie/Fun Night with the kids.  On the other hand, our daughters tend to be mesmerized by the TV and they stop moving when we turn it on; that’s not what we want for them so maybe it makes sense to remove the TV altogether.  Now, having spent a week without the TV in the family room, or any room for that matter, we are now firmly leaning toward removing it.  That TV’s days in my family room are numbered.

And that’s the big learning for me: I won’t fall apart without the TV ever-present in the family room.  And my family won’t have much trouble filling the time and space that the TV used to occupy.  This is HUGE for us.  I know many people who aren’t tethered to their TVs the way we were.  But that used to seem so drastic to us; we didn’t think we could make that leap.  But here we are, and it’s not that bad.

For now, we’re going to just keep the TV off and see how it goes.  I’m so happy with the way our family has enjoyed time together that I don’t want to lose that.  It shouldn’t be too hard to keep this going.  We’re not going cold turkey.  We have a TV in the master bedroom, and another one in the basement that we can use on Friday Family Movie/Fun Night.  If I need it, I can go to another room.  But I don’t have to help my kids’ minds turn to mush by having it on when they’re in the house.  And that seems a worthwhile change for our family to make.  I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

My best to all those affected by the storm.  I wish you all a swift recovery from the effects of the storm.  We are well aware that our silly six days is nothing in comparison to the losses some have endured.  Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are suffering as a result of the storm.

November 6, 2012 Posted by | Change, green, home environment, hurricane, nature, new experiences, tropical storm | , , | 1 Comment

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